The Air Force chief of staff spoke to leaders from industry, academia and the government about the current state of national security space and the U.S. aerospace industrial base at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 19.
In his remarks, Gen. Norton Schwartz also recognized the efforts and accomplishments of the Air Force’s major command charged with delivering military-focused space and cyberspace capabilities to the joint warf ighting team.
“Operating at 134 locations around the world, the 42,000 Airmen, government civilians and contractors of Air Force Space Command are dedicated and trusted stewards of approximately 85 percent of the Defense Department’s budget for space, providing space and cyber capabilities that, according to the new Defense Strategic Guidance, are absolutely vital to the conduct of high-tempo, effective operations by modern armed forces – particularly ours,” Schwartz said.
Capabilities and services such as spacelift; secured, high-volume and long-haul communications; space situational awareness; precision navigation and timing; missile warning; and weather forecasting are some of the indispensible enablers that are and will continue to be relevant in both combat and non-military environments alike, the general said.
As the Air Force contends with fewer defense dollars and implements a new defense strategy, Schwartz said space will remain a top priority when it comes to service investments.
“Even with the extraordinary budget pressures we face, we are protecting and, in some cases, increasing investment in our top acquisition priorities,” he said. “Space acquisitions represents 21 percent of all Air Force investment spending, including four of 10 of our largest procurement programs.”
Space-borne capabilities have played and will continue to play a prominent role in the collective U.S. joint team capabilities, Schwartz said.
“In total, our fiscal year 2013 budget request includes about $9.6 billion for investments in our space programs to help us maintain overall preparedness in addressing a wide range of contingencies,” he said.
Space capabilities showed their importance to contingency operations during the recent humanitarian and disaster relief activity in the Far East and the combat operations in North Africa, he said.
“Behind the scenes of cargo airlift in Japan, or fighters and bombers in the air above Libya, was our Joint Space Operations Center providing a full range of reach-back space capabilities for theater commanders around the world,” Schwartz said.
The general also addressed the importance of a strong partnership between the U.S. government and aerospace industry.
“The government will continue to rely on the expertise, creativity, innovation and productivity of private industry – again, throughout the entire chain of materiel and service providers, large and small – while it works to ensure the least onerous regulatory regime possible,” Schwartz said.
As an example, he pointed to the proposal announced April 18 to normalize export control of satellites and related components by moving their jurisdiction from the U.S. Munitions to the Commerce Control List.
“While the government must continue to maintain reliable funding streams and avoid requirements creep, industry must continue to deliver capabilities on cost and on time to America’s war fighters,” Schwartz said.
The general concluded his speech by stating his belief that the air and space capabilities the Air Force provides will continue to be important to the nation.
“With many indicators that presage a continuing upward trend of air and space power’s importance to our national interests and our daily lives, the ability for those who aspire to take to the skies and into the heavens, to pursue their lofty aspirations, remains as promising and inspiring as it was for so many of us over recent decades,” Schwartz said.
“Together, we can – and must – further pick up the pace to maintain our leadership in air and space.”